An Adjective can, in general, be converted to Comparative (-er) & Superlative (-est) ; for example :

good better best

happy happier happiest

Now Superlative means "Highest in quality", or has positive connotations.

In some cases, the quality is lowest, or has negative connotations.

bad worse worst

sad sadder saddest

(A) Is there a Different way to refer to Superlative in the negative ? It seems odd/self-contradictory to use "negative superlatives".

(B) Is there a term for the ordering of the 6 words from most-negative to most-positive, like the following ?

worst worse bad good better best

saddest sadder sad happy happier happiest

EDIT: I wish to add some points regarding the positive and negative connotations.

Consider the situation where a movie-maker asks "Was there a good turn-out for my movie ?" and the theatre owner replies "We had a full house !", and the movie-maker exclaims "Superlative !"

Consider another situation where a building-owner asks "Was there much damage to my building in the fire ?" and the watchman replies "It was destroyed completely !", where we can hardly expect the building-owner to reply with "Superlative !"

I came up with a new word to express negative superlative : "Infralative", though it may not catch up with the masses.

  • 8
    Positive, comparative and superlative are purely morphological terms: they describe the form of the word, irrespective of the semantic connotations of the base word itself. As such, there's nothing odd or self-contradictory about calling worst a superlative, or even calling bad a positive (form), even though it may at first blush seem like there is. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 25 '15 at 9:35
  • @JanusBahsJacquet , I am in total agreement with you on the Distinction between forms and semantics. I had even highlighted the word seems in part (A). Now, I am looking for a word which is similar to Superlative in form and in semantics. – Prem Apr 25 '15 at 14:36
  • 1
    In your Likert-type scale, you omit the unmarked (eg average / normal / neither sad nor happy). Also, it doesn't make sense to shackle say 'shortest' to 'most positive / most negative'. Shortest life or shortest war? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '15 at 15:06
  • @EdwinAshworth , indeed, there are qualities which are neutral (eg shortest & longest) but for those qualities which are positive, there will also be a negative (eg happy & sad). Agree about the missing central neutral word. Is there a way to fill my examples with single words ? – Prem Apr 25 '15 at 15:21
  • 1
    I believe not. // How can a candidate word (this phrase is non-intersective, like 'alleged criminal') be both 'a new word' and 'not a real word'? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '15 at 15:59

Surely a Latinate solution would be "sublative" not "infralative". (Super-sub, supra-infra.) Hideous coinage, though, and not likely to be understood.

And one devoutly hopes that the interjection "Superlative!" will go the same way as "the bee's knees".

Marking up Janus' big comment, which cannot be bettered, or even superlativised.

| improve this answer | |
  • +1 , but I have some more "hideousity" to share. I did consider Sub- but selected Infra- to allow Comparative (eg better, happier) to become Subparative (eg worse, sadder) so that Superlative&Infralative + Comparative&Subparative all have 11 letters. I hope somebody comes along and contributes some "hideous-er" or "hideous-est" word. – Prem Apr 26 '15 at 16:40

You are getting confused between the adjective and noun forms of the word superlative.

The adjective superlative means that the noun it is describing is extremely good, or high quality. You could say "His cooking is superlative."

The noun superlative is a linguistic term used for comparing adjectives which indicate that the described thing is the most whatever-the-adjective-is in the scope of the sentence. "The happiest dog in the room" means that the dog is the most happy out of all the dogs in the room. "The naughtiest dog in the room" means that the dog is the most naughty out of all the dogs in the room. Happiest and naughtiest are both superlatives, and neither have positive nor negative connotations.

| improve this answer | |
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet , in the first comment to the question , made a similar point about forms and semantics. In my reply, I agreed with that point (and I agree with you now) but clarified that I was looking for a word which is similar to Superlative in form and in semantics. – Prem Apr 27 '15 at 4:57
  • @Prem I don't understand. Something like infralative would not have similar semantics to the noun superlative. – curiousdannii Apr 27 '15 at 14:21
  • Well, let me put it this way : Superlative means "Richest/Highest/Best in quality". Which single word means "Poorest/Lowest/Worst in quality" ? – Prem Apr 27 '15 at 14:47
  • @Prem Then please edit your question to remove all discusion of the noun superlative, and all discussion of sad, sadder, saddest etc. If all you want is an adjective for the opposite of superlative then that should be easy to answer. – curiousdannii Apr 27 '15 at 14:51
  • Around 4 years ago, somebody else had a similar question : english.stackexchange.com/questions/30043/… : Maybe this question could be "merged" with that, though there are some Differences. – Prem Apr 27 '15 at 15:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.